Sunday, October 15, 2006

Good Night Irene

As I said in August, the Mets are in trouble. They are now down 2 – 1 in the NLCS, but it didn’t have to be this way. It would have been nice to have a healthy Kris Benson for these playoffs, but the Wilpons are less interested in championships than cash flow, and so we have John Maine. Maine may one day be a very good pitcher, but not today. It would have been nice to have Mike Cameron in the outfield to track down all of those RBI hits in this series that were about six-inches out of reach for Shawn Green, but the Wilpons cared more about profits than winning and sent Cameron packing.

It’s not enough to have their own cable station to broadcast Mets games and generate a ton of cash for the Wilpons. The Wilpons also want New York City pay for a large part of their new stadium. That new stadium will surely bring in gullible fans like me and give the Wilpons even less incentive to assemble a quality team. What’s that you say? The Mets have the sixth biggest payroll in baseball so what am I complaining about? That may be true, but relative to their cash flow that payroll is a mere pittance. Now, I am a professional investor, so I cannot blame the Wilpons for wanting to generate free cash flow and become rich off of it. I just wish they wouldn’t insult their fan base’s intelligence by pretending that they are doing everything they can to win a championship. They are not.

Sooner or later, though, someone will have to answer for the lack of a championship; I'll bet the Wilpons do a good job at pointing the finger elsewhere, and since the Mets are their toy, they get to keep it. But, in the almost-thirty years that the Wilpon family has owned a major stake in the Mets they have won only one championship and much of the credit for that should go to former co-owner Nelson Doubleday.

It was Doubleday who insisted on bringing in GM Frank Cashen--Baltimore's former GM--and giving him free reign, and it was Cashen who rebuilt the farm system and stockpiled it with pitchers Gooden, Darling, Aguilera and Fernandez and outfielder Strawberry. And, it was Cashen who made the deft trades for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter that put them over the top. Fred Wilpon was a lucky bystander then and his son Jeff was still in high school. But, since then the Wilpons siezed control of the team and the results have been terrible. This is not Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Milwaukee or Oakland folks, this is New York, and one championship in that time frame is a pathetic record for a major market team.

Two items that I always found interesting about the Wilpons: 1. Nelson Doubleday had to fight tooth and nail to sign Mike Piazza over the Wilpons' objection due to the size of the contract they were going to have to offer to keep Piazza. Piazza was largely responsible for the Mets' last NL pennant in 2000; 2. The Wilpons later forced Nelson Doubleday to sell his stake in the team. That should tell you everything you need to know about the Wilpons. Hey, I'd love to invest with them, but I wish they didn't own my favorite baseball team.

Having said all of that, I’ll look for the silver lining for this series, but it’s tough knowing Oliver Perez is starting for the Mets tonight: Well, the Mets were shut out eight times in 2006 and in games following a shut out they are 4 – 4, so that’s not a silver lining. Uh, I guess the only silver lining is that St. Louis is starting Anthony Reyes, a guy who was 5 – 8 this year with a 5.06 ERA and who only played in twenty-one games in his whole career.

If the Mets do not win tonight, it’s good night Irene.


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